The legal drinking age in the District of Columbia is 21, and there are three very distinct drinking and driving laws that are enforced by the Metropolitan Police Department:
Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)
DWI applies to a person having a statutorily prohibited blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher. (The District of Columbia adopeted the .08 percent BAC standard for Driving While Intoxicated in April 1999.) The suspect can be convicted in court based solely on the breath, blood or urine results without any structured field sobriety test.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
DUI applies to a person having a blood alcohol concentration of .07 percent or lower. Under DC Code, a driver can be charged with a DUI offense if, in addition to a BAC reading, the officer has other signs of impairment from a structured field sobriety test and from observations of the suspect's driving behavior.
Under Age Drinking
Persons under the age of 21 cannot purchase, consume, or possess any alcoholic beverages of any kind. If they are found to be operating a motor vehicle with any measurable amount of alcohol, they will be placed under arrest and charged with DWI—Driving While Intoxicated.
Other Information and Resources:
- The penalties for drinking and driving include fines, suspended licenses and jail time.
- Watch Your BAC (Blood Alcohol Content): Decide Before You Drive
- SoberRide Program (seasonal) - provided by the Washington Regional Alcohol Program
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Motor Vehicle Safety Impaired Driving